Most of us use social media every day, but what if it was your job? Yes, sir, we live in an age where tweeting, liking and sharing are all actual paid for activities. And whilst it’s hardly at the coal face, it’s still a job that takes some skill. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a quick look at when social media goes wrong – and it easily can.

JP Morgan and the Ill-advised Town Hall Q&A

JP Morgan had faced a raft of criminal probes including one into possible bribery in Asia, and another examining its relationship with Ponzi scheme kingpin Bernard Madoff. JPMorgan had been negotiating an agreement with the U.S. to resolve multiple mortgage-related scandals, and two ex-employees were indicted for trying to cover up a record-breaking trading loss last year. Unfortunately, this was also the time they tried to do a Q&A.

Okay JP Morgan- you asked – here come the questions…All 18,669 of them…Here are some choice selections:

  • Do you have a secret jail in your offices so your executives get at least one chance to see the inside of one? #AskJPM
  • What’s the best way to get blood stains out of a clown suit? #AskJPM
  • What’s it like working with Mexican drug cartels? Do they tip? #AskJPM
  • Do your clothes fit better since you don’t have the added weight of a soul? #AskJPM
  • Can I have my house back? #AskJPM

NYPD also fell into this trap with an innocent enough question…

The lesson? Just because you see another brand successfully running something online, it might not be right for you. Also, the bigger the brand, the harder they fall. Anytime a company with 1+ million customers steps onto a public stage, they had better expect hecklers. McDonald’s sponsored the hashtag #McDStories in January 2012, seeking positive responses about dining at its restaurants. Instead, respondents joked about obesity and dog food, and the firm halted the promotion less than two hours after it started.

H&M and The Poorly Constructed Apology

H&M had to issue an apology for using for an image on its UK online store featuring a black child in a green hoodie, with the phrase “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” printed on the front.

The loaded term of monkey which is often being used in racial and ethnic slurs, especially against the black community was picked up in the context of using a white child to model two other versions of the garment, with one featuring the phrase “Mangrove Jungle Survival Expert”.

Where the social came into it? The apology.

The lesson? If someone is offended you have to work from a viewpoint that you have done something wrong, not the customer.

Clorox and The ‘Topical’ Tweet That Went Wrong

When Apple rolled out an iOS update that included racially diverse emojis much to the delight of the digital masses. Clorox thought it was a prime opportunity to “contribute to the conversation”.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the emoji colours, the ‘bleaching’ and the ‘white’ statements, this felt less like a fun piece of branding and more like a racially charged statement. Whilst they apologised and removed the tweet, the damage had already been done.

The lesson? Check your diversity. Who could your tweet offend? Even if you don’t mean anything by it, could it be insinuated as a negative comment? 

Queensland Rail and The Emoji That Said 1000 Words

A track fault, storm damage, and a broken down train caused commuter chaos in Brisbane and many sought answers on social media.

Around 12.30pm, after delays had affected the network for almost eight hours and passengers were still having to wait up to half an hour longer for trains, QR’s Twitter account delivered a single, mocking image to users seeking answers about what had happened and whether they’d be refunded.

They later said “We apologise for the emoji tweet which has now been deleted as it did not come from within our team,” the account tweeted.

How strange!

The lesson? the customer is always right, even online. If you wouldn’t laugh in person, don’t laugh online. Professional, apologetic and courteous are your buzzwords. 

Superdrug and The Little Mix Branding Bust Up

Little Mix launched their own ‘Wishmaker’ perfume range, shared a snap of themselves to promote the collection stocked by beauty retailer Superdrug. They accompanied the picture with the message: “Tag @superdrugloves and tag your bestie telling us why they deserve to have their wishes come true to WIN! #LMWishmaker.”

While there was nothing wrong with this caption, there was an obvious fault with the photo. Jesy, Perrie, Jade and Leigh-Anne were pictured standing in front of a promotional board which features the logo of Superdrug’s biggest rival, Boots.

The lesson? If you use influencers or other content creators ensure that you provide the images, or they are run for approval first. You can also set up scheduling which allows posts to come down should errors be spotted. 

Stubhub and The Logged In Personal Account of Doom

This one would make any social media manager cringe. After all, even after a great week of work, most of us are happy to get out of the office. The problem with using social networks at work is the tying of personal and business. This StubHub Twitter feed got a bit jumbled, and the following tweet went out from the business twitter account.

The lesson? If you manage two social media accounts, go slow, or disconnect your personal streams. Also, save anything less than glowing you want to tweet for when you get home, just to be safe. 

American Apparel and The Curse of The Image That Wasn’t A Firework

In 2014, a supposedly non-US-born member of American Apparel’s social media team posted an image of smoke from an explosion to celebrate the Fourth of July. But almost immediately, people recognized the photo as the iconic image of the Challenger explosion and responded with shock and disapproval.

The lesson? Always check your images, run them back through a Google Image search if needs be, or use one sustainable, reliable source. 

Entenmann and DiGiorno And The Questionable Hashtag Bandwagon

When you jump on a trending hashtag you increase the chances of being seen by new people unaware of your account, especially if your tweet is witty or funny. Sadly, it takes a bit of work. Cake-maker Entenmann’s saw the not guilty hashtag referencing the verdict of the 2011 trial of Casey Anthony and tried to make it all about cake…

The same happened here on a hashtag encouraging an open conversation about domestic violence with brand DiGiorno pizza.

The lesson? Read the tweets, judge the mood ask if you have anything valuable to add. If not, leave well alone! 

Tesco and the Offhand Phrase

You will probably know this one – where after battling to limit the fallout from revelations that Tesco had been selling burgers containing horsemeat, the firm’s customer care team finished Thursday by tweeting: “It’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the hay! See you at 8am for more.”

The mood turned on Tesco who were seen as making light of the situation.

The lesson? Check what’s going on internally before you tweet, be careful with each word and if in doubt use fallback, evergreen content that you can rely on. 

GAP + Urban Outfitters and The Poor Judgement of Mood

GAP tweeted in no doubt good faith around Hurricane Sandy, but ruined the sentiment with a final call to action and a push for online shopping. During the storm, The Gap issued the tweet, failing to take in the seriousness of the situation – Hurricane Sandy killed 106 people in the United States alone. Urban Outfitters also released a tweet- again, with a call to action.

The lesson? Not everything needs a call to action or a brand mention. Be human, be kind, or say nothing at all. 

Honourable Mention:#susanalbumparty

We all know this one, yes? Before the launch of Susan Boyle’s record in November 2012, Susan Boyle‘s PR team made a blunder after using Twitter to promote an “exclusive album listening party”.

Unfortunately, the hashtag they chose was #susanalbumparty, which caused hilarity among Twitter-literate users, who quickly spotted a crude double meaning.

The hashtag was hastily changed to #SusanBoylesAlbumParty, but not before it spawned a wealth of mock-invites to the party.

As you can see, on social media you need to be careful and take it seriously. Creating content across multiple channels can be hard, and when things move politically, internally and the mood changes online, mistakes can happen and once your message is out there in the universe, it can’t be taken down easily.

When things do go awry you need a real apology message out there, interactions with customers and to eat a lot of humble pie.

Need help? I thought you would never ask! Click here to contact me.


I launched ‘Your Marketing Managed’ as an addition to my existing business Keep Writing Ltd a way to offer businesses the service of a marketing manager, without needing to pay for holidays, sick leave, national insurance and pension, whilst still getting a great service. I had noticed a growing need for businesses to have hands-on marketing support with flexibility.

My background has been 14 years in marketing, working as head of department in a mixture of start ups, local businesses and PLC’s including Tuffnells, BriefYourMarket, Go Outdoors, SVM Global and alpharooms. I had my first child and decided to build on the freelance work I had been doing with a new business dedicated to marketing support.

In my work I help with a range of things dependent on each client’s needs, such as PR, social media, event marketing, print and ‘traditional’ marketing, website management, influencer outreach, blogging and more. I can also come on-site or have regular calls to engage other team members.

I don’t call myself a ‘consultant’ as that implies someone who comes in and dictates to an existing team- I’m very much hands-on, able to offer strategic direction but also knuckle down and get your tasks done!